The SEMA Show: Customize This!
As members of the customization and vehicle personalization industry are getting fearful of our potential autonomous ‘transportation pod’ society, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) wanted to cement the idea that the personal vehicle will always be here to stay – especially leading into their annual show in Las Vegas. The group commissioned an independent market research study, and the findings are very positive for our future: 16-to-24-year-olds are still interested in their rides, and accessorizing them! According to the study, over a third of accessorizers say they “love cars.” Their vehicles not only help them get from A to B, but they are also an integral part of their social lives. Most would rather give up their phone for a week than their vehicle. Cars are a part of their identity.
The Popularity of Modification
Modifying is an exciting creative outlet that lets them express who they are. Larger projects become group projects, and “mods” give them something to talk about with friends. What starts as a fix often turns out better than new. Projects often start as a means to fix something deemed subpar. Uncomfortable seats or a scratch are a great excuse to upgrade to leather or get that paint job they’ve always wanted.
Another takeaway from the survey is that brick-and-mortar is still key for auto parts retail. Although online is important to young accessorizers, in-store is still the preferred way to purchase and pick up small parts. Shoppers benefit from being able to touch and feel the actual products. Moreover, with a helpful salesperson or cashier, they can run the part over to their vehicle to ensure it will fit. But, inspiration is now gained from the Internet. Seeing mods that other people have done on social media and across the online car community gives accessorizers access to things they didn’t know they could do to their car. Learning from others is the best source of inspiration for their next mod. Once the mods become more challenging than what the local auto parts retailer can provide in both equipment and service, our industry can step in and help.
The Show Floor
The SEMA show has become a hotbed for the 12-volt industry, with the show’s ‘vehicle personalization’ overtones. In fact, there are some audio manufacturers attending you might not have expected in the past. AudioControl was there, showcasing their ACM amplifiers. Since the amps are only 1.5 inches high, they are perfect for restomods, rat rods, and exotics where they can be tucked neatly under seats or other nooks and crannies.
AudioControl’s patent-pending modular configurable ACM system concept enables installers to bring together a number of amplifiers in various configurations, allowing a greater number of audio channels to be created and neatly housed beneath a single CP1 cover plate. ACM Series amps can be mounted with controls oriented up or down, and reversible cover plates allow flexible mounting options when paired with AudioControl DM series DSP processors or when using multiple ACM Series amplifiers in confined spaces. Also at SEMA, AudioControl showed their new DM-RTA, which combines the functionality of an oscilloscope, voltage meter, RTA, SPL Meter and polarity checker. It gives car audio installers a versatile tool for delivering superior sound even in the most challenging vehicles. The AudioControl DM-RTA is the first-ever device to combine all of these features into a single-chassis solution. To make sure techs are well-versed in the new tech, the company offered offsite training seminars. AudioControl’s director of mobile audio, Chris Bennett, along with support from Bryan Schmitt, Josh White and Ada Ehdaivand, covered the proper use of the DM-RTA, DSP tuning and fabrication.
Newcomer to the U.S. market but hot in Brazil was manufacturer SounDigital. The company is known for their very efficient power amplifiers. This is great for installations where the owner does not want to upgrade the vehicle’s electrical system. CEO Diogo Ianoconi noted: “We are always happy to return to Las Vegas for SEMA. The show caps off an exciting year that saw us attend three KnowledgeFest events, several car and motorcycle shows including Slamology, and a number of soundoff competitions. Plus, adding Ground Zero to our U.S. distribution created a lot of excitement with our dealer base. So, while SEMA is one of the more significant shows we attend all year, it’s also an end-of-year celebration we share with attendees.” The company showed off its flagship product lines at its booth, including the mainstream EVO Line of amplifiers, the new-for-2018 Marine Line and the competition-grade Power Line. Retailers were be able to see select amplifiers in stylized bikes built by Schubert Cycles and Voodoo Bikeworks, featuring SounDigital amplifiers and Ground Zero speakers.
VOXX Electronics was at the show displaying their new HomeLink mirror system that is operated by batteries. Although this makes the installation easier for the shadetree, some might not feel comfortable using proper adhesive for a mirror mount to ensure it will not fail at the worst-possible time. There is still room for the aftermarket retailer to get involved with a simple installation. They also were promoting CarLink Your Branded App, which will be a big hit in the expeditor crowd for car dealerships. The ability to reach out to customers for oil change specials when it’s slow is gold for service managers. Additionally, your customers can get your 12-volt store logo on their phone and you can reach out to them with promotions. Aron Demers, senior vice president at VOXX, said: “SEMA continues to be a great opportunity for VOXX to showcase our latest products to a broad audience of both our traditional mobile electronics customers as well as car enthusiasts. We look forward to meeting with our current customers as well as prospective new dealers. This year at the VOXX Electronics booth we are showcasing several new product introductions across our different categories featuring the latest in connectivity, telematics, safety and security.”
Rockford Fosgate has a new plug-&-play OEM upgrade audio solution called ecoPUNCH. The first collaboration is designed for Subaru, and they had a customized Subaru Crosstrek at the booth. The system will link up to factory audio systems. They feature a 5-channel DSP amplifier and can be installed in the aftermarket, at auto dealerships, ports, or even right at the factory. There are also drop-in upgraded speakers and under-floor subwoofer system kits available. “Our ecoPUNCH philosophy is an economical upgradeable system which utilizes existing audio components, is easy to install, and provides for a noticeably superior upgrade,” Dan Vandenbergh, managing director of OEM at Rockford, said. “This system is targeted to virtually all makes and models, so we ask manufacturers to contact us to see how we can improve their projects.”
SEMA, and Engaging Young People
The SEMA organization has come up with tips for engaging our new young customers. We distilled the best ideas for our industry. With a little luck and implementing these strategies, young customers will be returning to your store for years to come…
Help young accessorizers see themselves in the community – Only about one in five accessorizers consider the auto industry to be for people like them. By showcasing a more diverse set of accessorizers doing everything from small changes to vehicle overhauls, those on the outside looking in will feel more welcome.
Create communities around the store – Less-confident shoppers appreciate the knowledge in-store staff can provide. They also like to see the parts in person to learn what will work for their projects. The store can play a bigger part in helping young accessorizers meet people, learn and swap ideas.
About half of accessorizers say they are typically anxious when making modifications – This is especially true for women. Those who get more involved with the car community appreciate the knowledge exchange that happens with those who are more experienced. Training sessions and community workshops that reach out to young people may help bring more of them into the fold.
Pump inspiration onto social channels – Many who are new to accessorization don’t even know what’s possible for their vehicles or what would be in their skillset. At the same time, being online is key to connecting to the car community and their social circles, especially social media like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Reddit. Encouraging other accessorizers and industry influencers to share their mods could inspire more young people.
Demonstrate how mods improve their lifestyles – The most passionate accessorizers appreciate the process of researching and planning their mods. Most, however, just want to get it done to help their image and lifestyle. Messaging should highlight the process for enthusiasts and the happiness that comes from the final product for non-enthusiasts.